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Shingles Vaccine: CDC/ACIP Recommendations 


In October 2017, the FDA approved and ACIP recommended a Shingrix (RZV) vaccine for adults ≥50 years of age. Zostavax (ZVL) is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020.

Herpes Zoster and Postherpetic Neuralgia 

  • Herpes zoster is a localized, painful, cutaneous eruption resulting from reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus (VZV) 
  • Approximately one million cases occur each year in the United States  
  • Incidence increases with age 
    • 50 to 59 years of age: 5 cases per 1,000  
    • ≥80 years: 11 cases per 1,000  
  • Postherpetic Neuralgia is the most common complication  
    • Defined as persistent pain for at least 90 days following the resolution of the herpes zoster rash 
    • Occurs in 10 to 13% of herpes zoster cases in persons aged >50 years and risk increases with age 

Herpes Zoster Vaccine Recommendations  

Shingrix is recommended for the prevention of herpes zoster and related complications for immunocompetent adults aged ≥50 years 

  • Two doses of Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of shingles
    • Shingles Prevention: In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 97% effective; among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective
    • Postherpetic Neuralgia: In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 91% effective; among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective
  • Shingrix protection remained high (more than 85%) in people 70 years and older throughout the four years following vaccination
  • Shingrix is recommended for the prevention of herpes zoster and related complications for immunocompetent adults who previously received Zostavax or have already had herpes zoster
  • There is no maximum age for Shingrix

Clinical Guidance 

  • Administer 2 doses (0.5 mL each) administered intramuscularly 2 to 6 months apart 
  • Shingrix may be used in adults aged ≥50 years, irrespective of prior receipt of varicella vaccine or Zostavax 
  • If patient previously received Zostavax
    • Consider the patient’s age and when he or she received Zostavax to determine when to vaccinate with Shingrix | Differences in efficacy between Shingrix and Zostavax are most pronounced among older patients
    • Studies examined the safety of Shingrix vaccination five or more years after Zostavax vaccination | Shorter intervals were not studied, but there are no theoretical or data concerns to indicate that Shingrix would be less safe or effective if administered less than five years after a patient received Zostavax
  • Screening for a history of chickenpox (varicella) not required  
    • Recombinant and adjuvanted vaccines, such as Shingrix, can be administered concomitantly at the same visit, at different anatomic sites, with other adult vaccines (e.g., influenza and pneumococcal vaccines) 
  • Shingrix is not a treatment for herpes zoster or postherpetic neuralgia  
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding 
    • There are no available data to establish whether Shingrix is safe in pregnant or lactating women   
    • Consider delaying vaccination with Shingrix in such circumstance 


Counseling and Adverse Events  

  • Reactions to the first dose of Shingrix did not strongly predict reactions to the second dose 
  • Vaccine recipients should be encouraged to complete the series even if they experienced a grade 1 to 3 reaction to the first dose of Shingrix  
    • In studies, Grade 3 solicited symptoms were defined as “preventing normal everyday activity” (pain, headache, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, myalgia, shivering) | surface diameter >100 mm (redness/swelling) | tympanic/oral/axillary temperature >39.0 °C (fever)  
    • Grade 3 unsolicited adverse events were also defined as “preventing normal, everyday activities” 

Adverse Events

  • The impact of prophylactic analgesics in conjunction with Shingrix has not been studied 
  • Adverse local events are relatively common and include 
    • Pain  
    • Redness  
    • Swelling  
  • General adverse reactions include  
    • Myalgia  
    • Fatigue  
    • Headache  
    • Shivering  
    • Fever  
    • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Severe (rare) events include
    •  Difficulty breathing
    • Wheezing
    • Hives
    • Pale skin
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Dizziness 
  • Contraindications 
    • History of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any component of the vaccine OR after previous dose  
    • Acute episode of herpes zoster | Wait until acute episode has abated 

Special Populations 

  • Persons with a history of herpes zoster 
    • Adults with a history of herpes zoster should receive Shingrix as herpes zoster can recur  
  • Persons with chronic medical conditions (e.g., chronic renal failure, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pulmonary disease) 
    • Shingrix should be used 
  • Immunocompromised persons  
    • Shingrix may be used in persons taking low-dose immunosuppressive therapy (e.g., <20 mg/day of prednisone or equivalent or using inhaled or topical steroids), persons anticipating immunosuppression or who have recovered from an immunocompromising illness
    • Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended 2 RZV doses for prevention of herpes zoster and related complications in immunodeficient or immunosuppressed adults aged ≥19 years
    • Second RZV dose should be given 2 to 6 months after the first | For persons who are or will be immunodeficient or immunosuppressed and who would benefit from a shorter vaccination schedule, the second dose can be administered 1 to 2 months after the first
  • Persons known to be VZV negative 
    • Screening for a history of varicella (either verbally or via laboratory serology) is not recommended 
    • However, in persons known to be VZV negative via serologic testing, ACIP guidelines for varicella vaccination should be followed 
      • All healthy adults should be assessed for varicella immunity, and those who do not have evidence of immunity should receive 2 doses of single-antigen varicella vaccine 4-8 weeks apart 
      • Shingrix has not been evaluated in persons who are VZV seronegative and the vaccine is not indicated for the prevention of chickenpox (varicella) 

Learn More – Primary Sources:

CDC MMWR: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines

Use of Recombinant Zoster Vaccine in Immunocompromised Adults Aged ≥19 Years: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2022 | MMWR (

CDC: Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccination Information for Healthcare Providers

FDA: SHINGRIX (Zoster Vaccine Recombinant, Adjuvanted)  

CDC Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases; The Pink Book: Course Textbook – 13th Edition (2015)

Immunogenicity, reactogenicity and safety of 2 doses of an adjuvanted herpes zoster subunit vaccine administered 2, 6 or 12 months apart in older adults: Results of a phase III, randomized, open-label, multicenter study